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Microbiology

What is microbiology?

Picture of a male pathologist, labeling a specimen

Microbiology is the study of microorganisms--specifically, disease-causing microorganisms. Microbiology is responsible for identifying infectious agents in blood, urine, sputum, feces, cerebrospinal fluid, and other body fluids. The infectious agents are then tested for sensitivity to certain antibiotics used to treat infections.

Microbiology uses various techniques to identify microorganisms, including the following:

  • Chemical, immunological, and genetic tests

  • Examination under a microscope

  • Staining

Microorganisms can include the following:

  • Bacteria

  • Fungi

  • Parasites

  • Viruses

Common microbiology tests

Tests

Uses

Blood culture

Can diagnose bacterial infections of the blood

Culture and sensitivity of burns and wounds

Can identify disease-causing organisms and test for effectiveness of antibiotics

Sputum culture

Can identify lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia

Stool culture

Can identify parasites that cause disease, such as pinworms

Urine culture

Can identify disease-causing organisms in the kidneys and urinary tract

Online Resources

NIH Clinical Center  http://cclnprod.cc.nih.gov/dlm/testguide.nsf/MicroTestsBySource?OpenForm&Count=5000
American Society for Clinical Pathology  http://www.ascp.org/pdf/ThePathologist.aspx
American Society for Microbiology  http://www.microbeworld.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=176:faq&catid=83:footer&Itemid=122
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases  http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/microbes/PDF/microbesbook.pdf

© 2000-2011 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.